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Adjusting to digital needs

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Publishers need to take Web production duties into consideration when staffing The continuing rise of digital as a publishing platform may be great for reaching a targeted audience but it also means that all of those e-newsletters, webinars, Web sites, microsites, etc., have to have work flows just as print does. So how do publishers balance the digital/print work flow? Reed Business Information has spent several years developing a streamlined structure for its print and online production. “Our corporation is very structured in terms of what we do online right from the Web site's design onward,” said John Blanchard, VP-operations at RBI. The next step in the plan is for RBI's print and online content management systems to be unified, making work flow issues less of a problem, Blanchard said. One of the most difficult challenges, he said, is changing mind-sets. “Traditional publishers have a much bigger challenge than younger or brand-new publishers in terms of changing mind-sets,” Blanchard said: “A new company can build it with a vision of the future. We're still in transformation.” Balancing the print/online work flow is a common problem, said Dedra Smith, president of magazine production consultancy Printmark West. A few years ago a client of hers offered online advertisers banner ads based on click-throughs but hadn't anticipated that analyzing data from DoubleClick would amount to a full-time job for someone. The responsibility eventually fell to the production director. “However, no adjustment in his existing duties were made, so he ended up burned out, disillusioned and finally he resigned,” Smith said. “Every organization has to decide whether the technical part of serving ads falls within the sales/marketing, IT, Web or production functions,” she said. MediaTec Publishing, which produces such titles as Chief Learning Officer and Talent Management, is aiming to push some work flow balancing responsibilities to editors. “It really got to a point where the production department just couldn't keep up with everything that needed to happen,” said Kendra Chaplin, director of creative services and production at MediaTec. MediaTec has signed on with Interwoven to use one of its products as a content-management system that will handle both print and online content. It will replace the somewhat jerry-rigged system Media-Tec is currently using. “It was taking too much of the production department's time and energy to keep building out applications and functionality so we weren't able to handle our other responsibilities,” Chaplin said. Rich Zweiback, executive director of manufacturing at Lebhar-Friedman Inc., said publishers should evaluate current staff to see if their workloads can sustain the online tasks. “If not, you need to stress that additional personnel are needed,” he said. Sometimes publishers can forget that online ads need to be preflighted and trafficked just as print ads do, Zweiback said, and that there is a learning curve that advertisers will go through as they figure out how to e-mail advertisements. “The revenue per online ad might not be the same as a print ad, but the time spent processing the ad might be the same,” he said. Blanchard's advice is to aggregate all content and look at the formats that it is stored in as well as content standards. “You need to be able to engineer a system around the content repository,” he said. “If your process can't work cleanly, effectively and quickly around that repository, your whole effort isn't worth much. You essentially want one content store that is platform neutral and everything published is born of that.”
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